With the end of the year approaching, time is running out on a bill in New Jersey that would tap drivers caught speeding to help offset the charge that small towns must pay for State Police patrols.
Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, the bill would add $40 surcharges to all motor vehicle violations to defray some of the costs of providing local police services. The revenue would be split between two funds.
One fund would send $5,000 to $1 million in grants to cities and towns that have their own law enforcement. The rest of the money would be used to pay for full- and part-time state policing in rural areas.
According to a statement attached to the bill, more than $80 million a year is expected to be generated for each fund through the surcharge.
Gov. Jon Corzine approved the state budget that ended free State Police protection provided to rural areas since the 1920s.
Since the budget was signed, 89 municipalities have been billed $12.6 million for State Police patrols. They must pay up by Dec. 15, or they are on the hook for coming up with their own police protection.
Critics of the new plan say rural towns may need to cut spending, consolidate and possibly merge with other towns to pay for police protection. Others say it is unfair to shift to traffic violators the cost for police services.
The bill – S1976 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee. The Assembly version – A2982 – is in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. All legislation that fails to advance from the statehouse before the Jan. 13 adjournment can be picked up for consideration once the 2009 session opens.
To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2008, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor